After the last great ammo-primer-powder-bullet shortage, I’ve gotten quite a few questions from people about casting bullets for their handguns. I’ve been pouring my own for 49 years now, so I do have a little practical experience and made most of the possible mistakes along the way.
Think of getting into casting like when you were getting into a swimming pool as a kid. If you dipped a toe in then you likely backed out saying it’s too cold. But if you just jumped in the initial shock likely took your breath away but then the water quickly became comfortable.
That translates to this. I’ve seen guys buy a tiny lead pot and a single cavity bullet mold and then throw their hands up in despair when an entire afternoon’s work netted them enough bullets for about 10 minutes of shooting. If you are serious about being the master of your own bullet supply and decide to buy your initial set-up timidly you might as well just add the cost of the Spartan equipment to the amount you will spend later on a truly good set-up. I know!
For starting to cast handgun bullets, here’s my take. Buy a bottom-pour lead furnace of 20-pound capacity from Lyman, Lee or RCBS. Why a bottom-pour instead of a ladle-type furnace? Because in casting handgun bullets we’re going for quantity. Ladling is for supreme quality.
The RCBS #45-230CM works well in .45 ACP, .45 Auto-Rim, .45 S&W and .45
Colt, for which it was originally designed.
I recommend handgun casters to buy three or four cavity molds whenever possible. Here’s the deal: Lyman offers four cavity bullet molds only for some select, really popular designs. RCBS only offers two cavity molds for handgun bullets, which is a real shame considering they have some excellent bullet designs. Redding/SAECO does offer three and four cavity molds as special order items. Lee goes up to six cavities for some special order molds.
Personally I prefer three-cavity molds when possible because they seem to always turn out three good bullets whereas often with four-cavity mold one or more bullets drop as rejects. I bought my first three-cavity bullet mold from the long defunct Lachmiller Company in 1971 and I still have it.
What really works great is to have a pair of three-cavity molds working together. I borrowed one from a friend and worked them like this. The first was filled and set aside to cool while the second was filled. Then the first mold’s sprue was cut while letting the second mold cool, its bullets dumped and then it was filled again. The same process was repeated again with number two. In this manner by actual timing I produced 600 good .44 caliber bullets in an hour.
Because RCBS doesn’t make any but two-cavity molds and I prefer three- or four-cavity, I’ve had to adapt. I buy two molds of the same design and then use the alternate casting method as described in the above paragraph. This nets the kind of production I desire.
To make my casting process smooth, I set a cast iron ingot mold upside down under the furnace’s lead spout. Then the mold is rested atop it. When the first cavity is filled I push the mold until the second cavity is filled, and so on. It’s a lot easier on wrists and hands than using muscle power to hold the weight.
Duke says wadcutters (#1) are the least versatile. Semi-wadcutters (#2) are never a poor choice
for revolvers. Roundnoses (#3) are perhaps best for semi-autos but usually are very accurate for
revolvers too. Roundnose/flatpoints (#4) are good all-around bullets for all handguns.
Finally there’s the question of which bullet design? It’s actually an easy question to answer. For semi-auto handguns a roundnose (RN) or roundnose/flatpoint (RN/FP) will usually give 100 percent reliability. For revolvers, a semiwadcutter (SWC) or RN/FP usually suffice. In days gone by, the vast bulk of target shooters used full wadcutters (WC) but in my humble opinion the SWC’s and RN/FP’s will give precision on a par with WCs.
Also there can be some overlap in regards to bullet designs. For instance, RCBS #45-230CM is an RN/FP meant for the cowboy action shooting crowd to use in .45 Colt and .45 S&W Schofield. It has a rounded ogive so it will slide through lever guns reliably. This also makes it slide through semi-autos as well. I have found it an excellent .45 ACP and .45 Auto-Rim bullet.
Here’s another one. The RCBS #40-180CM is meant for .38 WCF/.38-40 revolvers and lever guns. It might be the best ever .40 S&W cast bullet I’ve tried in my Kimber!
Enough for this installment. Next issue I’ll talk about what to do with all those newly cast bullets after they have cooled enough to handle.
By Mike “Duke” Venturino